In a small German village, a woman differed with her minister and became so angry that she began spreading ugly rumors about him around town. As fate would have it, she eventually became ill and called on the minister to pray for her. He came gladly, and she asked his forgiveness of her gossiping.
"I will grant you forgiveness," the minister said, "but there's something you must do."
"I'll do anything," the woman said.
"As soon as you get well, go pluck the feathers from a black chicken and put them into a basket and bring them to me."
When the woman got well, she did what the minister asked her to do and presented the basket of feathers to the minister.
"You did well," the minister said. "Now take this basket of feathers and scatter them in the corners of the marketplace and from the towers of the church. Scatter them throughout the town. Then return to me."
So the woman did. She walked from one end of town to the other, scattering the feathers. Then she returned to her pastor. "I have done as you asked," she said.
"Very well. Now take your basket and collect all the feathers. Make sure not one is missing."
"But that is not possible!" the woman said with a choking cry. "The wind has carried many of them away!"
"So it is with your words," the minister said. "While I have gladly forgiven you, do not forget that you can never undo the damage your untrue words have done."
The sin of gossiping - how easily committed! What does the Word of God say about this evil?
In Leviticus 19:16 we read these words: "Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the Lord."
Proverbs 26:22 says: "The words of a talebearer are as wounds" and Proverbs 17:9 says "He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends." Again in Proverbs 26:20 we read: "Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out; so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth."
"Many who listen to the preaching of the word of God make it the subject of criticism at home. They sit in judgment on the sermon as they would on the words of a lecturer or a political speaker. The message that should be regarded as the word of the Lord to them is dwelt upon with trifling or sarcastic comment. The minister's character, motives and action, and the conduct of fellow members of the church, are freely discussed. Severe judgment is pronounced, gossip or slander repeated, and this in the hearing of the unconverted. Often these things are spoken by parents in the hearing of their own children. Thus are destroyed respect for God's messengers, and reverence for their message." Christ's Object Lessons, page 45, 46.
More scripture texts on gossiping follow:
"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour." Exodus 20:16.
"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." Matt 12:36, 37.
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." Matt 12:34.
"For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: but the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison." James 3:7, 8.
"Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth: keep the door of my lips." Psalm 141:3.
"I said, I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me." Psalm 39:1.
"The spirit of gossip and talebearing is one of Satan's special agencies to sow discord and strife, to separate friends, and to undermine the faith of many in the truthfulness of our positions.
"It is natural for human beings to speak sharp words. Those who yield to this inclination open the door for Satan to enter their hearts and to make them quick to remember the mistakes and errors of others. Their failings are dwelt upon, their deficiencies noted, and words are spoken that cause a lack of confidence in one who is doing his best to fulfill his duty as a laborer together with God. Often the seeds of distrust are sown because one thinks that he ought to have been favored but was not.
"God calls upon believers to cease finding fault, to cease making hasty, unkind speeches. Parents, let the words that you speak to your children be kind and pleasant, that angels may have your help in drawing them to Christ. A thorough reformation is needed in the home church. Let it begin at once. Let all grumbling and fretting and scolding cease. Those who fret and scold shut out the angels of heaven and open the door to evil angels."
Let not your ears listen to gossip from any one. If all would refuse to hear evil of their neighbor, the tale-bearer would soon seek other employment. --In Heavenly Place, page 122.
The disposition to gossip, which is so wide-spread, is displeasing to God. If those who indulge in unkind criticism or idle talk could realize that an angel of God is noting down their words, and that all are to appear against them in the Judgment, they would be far more careful as to what is entered on that book of records. How must the continual fault-finding appear to the heavenly messengers who are sent forth to minister to God's people. Would that the eyes of all might be opened, that they might see the holy angels walking among them. Surely they would be more guarded; instead of judging their brethren and sisters, and talking of their weaknesses, they would be seeking God with the whole heart. --In Heavenly Places, page 213.
Be careful how you speak. Be careful how you represent the religion you have accepted. You may feel it no sin to gossip and talk nonsense, but this grieves your Saviour, and saddens the heavenly angels. Fundamental of Christian Education, page 457.
Gossip reveals a lack of true culture and refinement, and of true goodness of heart; it unfits one both for the society of the truly cultured and refined in this world, and for association with the holy ones of heaven. -- AUCR, September 15, 1905 par. 3.
Once the feathers of gossip are scattered into the wind, it is impossible to retrieve all of them. The damage would have been done and the scar remained.
On a beautiful warm sunny day not too long ago, my sister Ruth decided to hang out her laundry on the clothes line in the backyard. As she was doing so, she heard a hissing sound coming from the grass near her. A rattlesnake coiled and ready to strike was right there by her sandaled feet. In abject terror she stood there paralyzed not knowing whether to run, scream or what. Only by the grace of God, a wing and a prayer that she got out of that seemingly hopeless situation unharmed. Gossip is like that snake in the grass waiting to strike on the unsuspecting and the unwary.
Here's a poem that I know you will enjoy, and it would make you think twice before you gossip or say anything unkind to a soul created in the image of God:
I have no respect for justice.
I maim without killing.
I break hearts and ruin lives.
I am cruel and malicious
and gather strength with age.
The more I am quoted,
the more I am believed.
I flourish at every level of society.
My victims are helpless.
They cannot protect themselves
against me because
I have no name and no face.
To track me down is impossible.
The harder you try,
the more elusive I become.
I'm nobody's friend.
Once I tarnish a reputation,
It is never the same.
I topple governments and ruin marriages.
I ruin careers and cause sleepless nights,
I spawn suspicion and generate grief.
I make innocent people cry in their pillows.
Even its name hisses.
It's called gossip--
It makes headlines and headaches.
Before you repeat a story, ask yourself:
It is true?
Is it fair?
Is it necessary?
If not, SHUT UP!
Have a blessed and gossip-free day!